Geographers try to lose patchy image

3rd November 2006 at 00:00
Last term, he was a geeky geography teacher with leather patches. Today, Daniel Raven-Ellison is the leader of a 1,500-plus group, clamouring for better recognition for his subject. Still he is not satisfied.

In June The TES reported that Mr Raven-Ellison, head of geography at Langtree comprehensive, in Oxfordshire, and fellow geographer David Rayner had launched a campaign to raise the subject's profile.

Now, they have sent a letter to Tessa Jowell, culture, media and sport secretary, asking her to address geography's poor image. Signatories include more than 1,500 geography teachers, as well as academics from 45 universities.

Despite his substantial following, Mr Raven-Ellison believes his campaign is not being taken seriously. "If any other subject produced something like that, it would be taken up by the press," he said.

"The only reason people don't think geography is cool is because the media don't say it is."

The website highlights the way the media and politicians regularly make jokes at geography teachers' expense.

"On TV, people don't call themselves geographers," Mr Raven-Ellison said.

"They are migration experts or palaeoclimatologists. So people just remember horrific geography lessons spent drawing oxbow lakes or looking at volcanoes over and over again."

Among the campaign's supporters are Nick Middleton, the TV explorer, and Wayne Hemingway, the designer. Mr Hemingway said: "It's a subject that's often misguidedly derided, when in fact it offers an entry into the causes and effects of conflict and poverty. Anyway, beards and open-toed sandals are cool now."

Despite the lack of media interest, Mr Raven-Ellison hopes that celebrity support will help shift public perspective.

"You need people who are well-known," he said. "I'm just a geeky geography teacher. No one will listen to me."

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